Setting the Facts Straight Re UCLA GSA President

  CREDIT: SAWYERLAW

CREDIT: SAWYERLAW

On June 29 2016, after a months-long investigation, UCLA found that then-Graduate Student Association (GSA) President Milan Chatterjee violated university funding policies when he decreed that student groups with a connection to “Divest from Israel or any equivalent movement/organization” would lose funding. 

In a 25-page report, UCLA concluded that “Milan Chatterjee, acting in official capacity as GSA President, violated University policy requiring viewpoint neutrality in the allocation of mandatory student fees.” The report “further finds that this policy violation had a negative effect on campus climate.”

As the graduate student body president at a public school, Chatterjee is bound by university policy and the First Amendment to distribute student funding without discriminating against particular political viewpoints. He violated this rule when he warned student organizers of a diversity town hall that they would lose their funding if they associated with supporters of divestment from Israel. 

Had UCLA not investigated Chatterjee’s actions as it did, it would have exposed itself to a First Amendment lawsuit. 

Palestine Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) explained in repeated communications to UCLA that Chatterjee’s funding stipulation violated a basic constitutional requirement of free speech. After conducting a lengthy investigation, including extensive review of documentation and over 14 witness interviews, the university concluded that the factual record is clear: Chatterjee mishandled the distribution of student activity fees and discriminated against pro-Palestinian viewpoints. 

UCLA’s report details the harmful effects that Chatterjee’s funding restriction had on the campus climate for graduate students. 

Yacoub Kureh, UCLA Graduate Student and President of SJP for the most recent academic year, explained, “This whole process has taken an emotional toll, to put it mildly. I’ve lost sleep, my research and teaching suffered because of the stress and the exorbitant number of hours spent explaining our rights to university officials. I was repeatedly smeared in conservative media pieces as an anti-Semite and a bully, merely because SJP objected to violations of our First Amendment rights.”